Wage War is a five-piece metal band from Ocala, Florida that is out to make a name for themselves. Composed of Briton Bond, Cody Quistad, Seth Blake, Chris Gaylord, and Stephen Kluesener, this band has built their own community of metal followers that are devoted to the truth in their songs and the hardcore sound they produce. Recently, I sat down with Cody Quistad to talk about his love for Fender guitars, crazy tour stories, the making of Wage War’s third studio album Pressure, and more!
Denise: How are you doing? I’m sure you’ve been busy with the upcoming release of your new album.
Cody: Yeah! It’s a week away. [Interview was conducted on Thursday August 22nd] It’s been really fun and nerve-wracking, but also really exciting! We are taking each day as it comes and counting down to the release. We’re able to count on one hand now so it’s good to go.
D: Drew Fulk worked on this new album, and he’s been associated with multiple hardcore bands, including Cane Hill which we learned about after interviewing James Barnett. How did you get connected with Drew to work with him and what was his involvement like?
C: It was great! When it came time to do the record, we were looking at who we thought would be the right move for the direction we were going. That’s actually how I met up with Drew. He lives in Florida (which is where we are from) and we ended up meeting for drinks one night. We sat down and talked about my vision for where I wanted the record to go and he was on board with all of it. It was really just a no-brainer and even more than that (and I hate using this word) but it was just a good “vibe”. We hit it off immediately as friends and just had a lot of things in common. When you are working that closely with somebody on something that is very personal to you, I feel like it’s very important to have someone that is not only connected to the project but somebody that can connect to all the members of the band. We are really easygoing guys and Drew was the guy for our band. We had an absolute blast and I really don’t think the record would have turned out the same without him. I’m excited to see what else comes from that in the future.
D: Are you planning on working with Drew again?
C: Yeah, I would love to. We’ve got no solid plans yet past this current record though. As far as I’m concerned, I’d love for him to get involved with anything we do in the future.
D: You could have named your album anything and you decided to go with Pressure, so I’m assuming everyone in the band deals with pressure one way or another, especially for it to have the influence in the album title and the songwriting. How has pressure affected the band in both positive and negatives ways in all aspects of your life?
C: The album title Pressure didn’t come ‘til 3 months after we had been sitting with all the mixes that we had. We were just sitting and trying to think what this record is for us as a band and how do we feel about the songs and I think I said the word “pressure” and it just resonated with everybody.
Any time you go in to make a record with a band there is obviously a pressure that surrounds it because this is basically going to determine the next two or three years of your life; if it goes well, it can change your life forever in a good way and if it doesn’t go so well, then it could change your life for the worse. More than ever we really felt it on this record because we got two records under our belts and we really decided that it was time to break out and maybe do something a little outside of what our standard Wage War wheelhouse was. There are songs on the record that will resonate with fans of our older stuff. We pushed ourselves and it’s Wage War but slightly different.
We have 12 completely different songs but I think lyrically, the album deals with everything from self-pressure to mental health with depression and anxiety and the pressure to act like you’re okay. I think that there’s this weird stigma in society where people don’t talk about it but it’s cool to see that within the last two years, it’s been something being spoken about more openly. I think that’s really important and we are huge advocates for mental health.
Also, the record deals with the pressures of being away from home a lot; we have not been home a lot in the past 2 ½ years which, frankly, I’m thankful for. Our band has gotten to where it is because we have been gone so much and have been playing in front of as many people as we can. But that definitely comes with a price and there are songs on the record that deal with that.
Also, the pressure of being yourself and standing for something instead of just sitting by the wayside; having the courage to stand for yourself or stand up for what you believe in. There’s a lot of different ways that the word pressure ties into the album which is why we really thought that was a cool title. Records are like yearbooks in my eyes and our first record we were all so green at the young age of 18 and there wasn’t a lot of bad stuff that had happened to us yet. When we made our second record, that one dealt with a pretty serious heartbreak situation. Alternatively, this record is a snapshot of the last few years of our lives and all of the things we have been dealing with and going through and things that you see all over.
D: Forgive me for asking but is mental health something that you deal with personally?
C: In some way shape or form this is something that everybody deals with and it looks different for everybody; one person’s situation is not necessarily the same as another’s. I think it’s a byproduct of working in this industry. When you put yourself in a vulnerable situation where you’re out there for the world to criticize while also spending a lot of time away from home and miss out on important things, in a way it sort of catches up to everybody at one point or another. Even people that aren’t in a band, it’s just something that is so prevalent especially with social media. We are in this weird in-between with reality versus what people decide to post about regarding their lives and comparing their lives to other people. There are a lot of different aspects that can tie into it. But yeah, I definitely say it’s something that I have to pay attention to and keep up with.
D: Taking that into consideration, is this the message Wage War was trying to make with Pressure?
C: That’s what our band has always been about. We try to keep it real. We never want to put anything out there that is inauthentic. When it’s time to write songs a lot of times we just flip open the notes section on the phone and write down how we are feeling, regardless if we’re in a green room, on a bus, in a house or just driving around. Most of the time that’s how our songs are written.
D: Can you further explain your song writing process and what goes through your head including incorporating the instruments?
C: I do quite a bit of everything. I’ve written most of the lyrics for the last albums that we have done, as well as the music. I’ve got my own little recording setup here at the house so I sit at home and just jam out riffs and put songs together. Then, I show it to the rest of the band and then we’ll piece songs together; put things in different places move things around. I think on this record it was the first time we had more interaction with other people in the band making it a more collaborative project. Normally, it starts with me and a laptop so this process was refreshing.
D: During the making of Pressure you guys lived together; do you feel that this not only strengthened your bond as a band but also made the production of the album stronger?
C: Drew’s studio has a living quarters, so the five of us lived in the same house, it was a small house, and it was a really great for us because we tour together all the time but you’ve got crew, front of house, merch, techs, and all these different people so it’s never really just the five of us anymore. We had a month where it was just us and just getting back to the basics. I’d say we are pretty proud of the fact that we are so close knit and truly brothers. This isn’t just a band were we all hate each other behind closed doors. We are very, very close to each other. Basically, we’re best friends. We had a lot of great talks in the studio, like way back when. We would just talk about the future and the past and how excited we are for what’s going on. That’s really a big starting point of this record because our last two records we had done at home so we would finish up for the day and would go home. Doing this record, however, we were in it all together and that was an awesome part of making this record.
D: It sounds like you guys not only connected through the record but were able to reconnect with each other. Do you think this experience made your band a stronger unit?
C: 100%. Like I said, we’ve always been really close but sometimes things happen and people just don’t want to talk about those moments or they bury them inside. We got to reconnect with each other and remember why we started this band. We were just five friends in central Florida that wanted to play music together. A lot of times you skip over everything else that happens, but I think we are very aware, very humble, and very thankful for where we are at now versus where we were and we talk about it all the time. It’s just like playing for 10 people when you drove all the way to Louisville, Kentucky and laughing back at those moments and realizing they are all important and almost like a stepping stone to get where we are now.
D: In nearly 10 years and 3 albums your band has risen above many acts to become a band people should keep their eye on. What do you think makes your band stand out above the rest in an ever-growing pool of talent in the metal and hardcore community?
C: That’s a good question that I ask myself a lot. I think we are very honest and we are very, like I said earlier, authentic in the way that we try to do things. We never want to put out anything fake or cookie-cutter. Lyrically, our band has always stood for that and I think we are a band that people really read the lyrics and connect with on that level. We also try to write the sickest riffs that we can and make parts that are fun to see live and we practice really hard and put a lot of thought into our live shows.
When people like our band, a lot of times, the turning point is when they see us live because I feel that’s the environment that we thrive in. Our show is really just about having a good time whether you want to get in the pit with your friends or you want to crowd surface, jump up and down, put your hands up or even if you just want to sit in the back. We just want to engage everybody which is what we really what we love to do. But yeah, we put a lot of thought into our songs and songwriting. Sometimes we’ll slave over chorus hooks for hours. We just try to be excellent in everything we do and I think, to some degree, that has transferred over and we are pretty happy about that.
D: Do you feel like you have learned a lot over the ten years you guys have been playing together?
C: Absolutely. We’ve been through a lot and have done everything from sleeping in Walmart parking lots to breaking down on the side of the road, getting rushed by Syrian refugees, getting broken into; we have definitely learned a lot of lessons along the way and even learned how to run our band as a business and make smart decisions for ourselves so that we can continue to do this. We’ve learned a lot for sure.
D: Can we go back to the Syrian refugee thing for a second? What happened with that?!
C: [Laughter] That’s probably one of our best stories. It was 3 am and we were crossing the border from France to England and we were traveling in one of those bucket seat burners, which is a van with six seats in the back or something. We were just about to get to the border when we noticed there was a tree in the road. There were no trees around so it we instantly got suspicious and then out of nowhere, 50 people just came running at the vehicles, climbing on top of them and like trying to get on top and under semis. It was a really sad, honestly. We ended up making it over the tree somehow and just sped out of there but it was very, very scary.
D: That’s insane!
C: It definitely was, and like I said it was very sad and you feel bad in a moment like that. You think about those people and what they are doing for their families and you think, “What wouldn’t you do for your family”. It was probably one of the most terrifying nights of all of our lives because it was so out of nowhere and you just didn’t know what was going to happen. That was in December of 2016. Wild times.
D: Speaking of wild times what’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
C: I feel like the best gig is always subjective because I like different shows for different reasons. I’m going to start with Rock on the Range in 2019. Rock on the Range is a festival put on by Danny Wimmer and they have been so good to us and let us play a couple of those festivals along the way.
First of all, that show was insane. Second of all, it was my 24th birthday. Third of all, Metallica was headlining that night. Basically, my day went: played a great show in a great slot time and there were way more people than I could imagine that came to see our band. Then, I got to watch Metallica on my birthday so, that’s probably one of my favorite ones.
There are too many to count. Last year on Warped Tour we closed our stage on the final day in West Palm and I was crying my eyes out before we played and that doesn’t happen a lot. I think everything caught up to me. Whether or not that was on purpose to have our band close the stage it felt like a huge honor. To think about my 14-year-old self going to warped tour as a kid; dreaming of playing there and that would be it, that is a success if I could play Warped Tour. And then 2 tours later, plus some extra shows, and closing out the stage for that final year was just absolutely insane. That is definitely a moment I will never forget because I was just looking at my guys and we were all just crying our eyes out before we went on stage and it was like, “Man, we got to pull ourselves together! We are a brutal band! We can’t be crying our eyes out!” It was a really memorable moment.
D: On the flip side of that coin, what was the worst gig you’ve ever played?
C: Oh man, I’ve had a couple of those too. I had a lot before we were a “professional band”. Man, the worst gig we have ever playe… I don’t think that we have ever had a terrible train wreck of a show. We’ve gotten to places and gear isn’t working and that’s always a bummer. We’ve had strings break, microphones break. The worst show… this is a hard one to do cause then you’re calling out a city for saying they had the worst show. I think I’m going to have to go back to the local band days because those are really the worst shows that I can think about. We played this venue that is no longer around and it was back in the day when openers had to hustle for presale tickets. It was about an hour and a half from where we lived and there was no way we were going to get 20 kids at 10 bucks a ticket to come see the show. We ended up paying 200 dollars out of pocket so we could play the show, which is a big deal when you’re a local band because 200 bucks is decent money. We were not getting paid near that to play. I think we made 30 bucks that night playing this small room and we did it because we thought it would be a great local exposure show with a few bigger Florida bands and I think we played for basically 10 people. That was a show where I remember walking away asking myself, “What are we doing? Why are we here?”
We also played a show were the band before us brought a microwave on stage, microwaved an aluminum can and then broke the microwave on top of his head and got glass all over the stage. That one was a really weird show, for sure. Those were are all Florida stories. #Floridamemes!
D: After working with talent such as Motionless In White, Of Mice and Men, and I Prevail, are there any other acts you hope to share the stage with?
C: I mean all of those names you just mentioned were awesome! A Day to Remember would be one. They are from our home town and we love those guys a lot. Slipknot is number one, always. I Prevail are really good friends of ours and we’d love to tour with them. We are all huge Breaking Benjamin fans so that would be sick. Five Finger Death Punch and Papa Roach as well. Honestly, we would go out on tour with almost any band. We are just trying to break out of what we’ve always done and get in front of new people. Anything and everything pretty much.
D: After researching, it seems that you have an affinity for Fender guitars. Where did that love begin and do you have a particular guitar you reach for more than others?
C: We are massive Fender fans. The one I use a lot is the Jim Root Jazz Master. That’s probably my favorite guitar. I also have the Jim Root Stratocaster, big fan of that. I have a wide array of Fenders. I think at heart I’m a pretty classic guy and, not to diss any other company, but we have never been into super pointy guitars or super metal looking guitars; it’s kind of become a predictable look. I’ll read comments about our band and people are like, “How do they make Strats sound like that?” and obviously with a choice of pickups it’s relatively easy in a setup. That’s the one thing I like about our band: we are a pretty aggressive, heavy band, but we use pretty classic guitars. It goes to show you that Fender can really handle anything whether it’s country or pop or jazz or metal; you can take them wherever. We’ve been exclusively using Fender since our band started.
D: Additionally, is there a Fender you hope to own for yourself one day?
C: Probably the Stevie Ray Vaughan Strat. I used to work at a guitar shop and pull that one off the wall and play it when no one was looking. I’m a really big Stevie Ray Vaughan fan so that would be cool for me. I have quite an array of guitars. I just got the American Performer Series guitar from them. It’s their new launch that they just did and I have been loving that guitar. I have the American Elite Strat and the American Professional Tele that are both great. I literally just haven’t picked up a guitar from Fender that I don’t like.
D: Besides Fender guitars, what else does your guitar rig look like?
C: About two years ago we switched over to Kemper Profilers. We were using the EVH 5150 III, its 50-watt version with Mesa Cabs. But, just for ease of travel we switched over to Kemper. I think the profile that we use on the Kemper is still an EVH 5150 III 50-Watt. But just for overseas and gear in general, we went through tours where we blew three heads in the entire tour which was areally big bummer. Otherwise, it’s that, Fender guitars, Fishman Fluence Modern pickups, and Ernie Ball Not Even Slinkys where we trade out the top string for an 80 gauge which is… ridiculous for guitars. We tune pretty low and have to do some tuning stuff on the fly. I think that’s pretty much it. Fender, Kemper, and Fishman are the big three.
D: Since you use such heavy gauge strings and such low tunings, why not use a 7 or 8-string guitar?
C: Back in the day we used to play 7-strings but it just felt weird. Additionally, I don’t want to make our band look too metal. We do a lot of cool, different tuning with the 6-string but I think we just like the feel better and most of my favorite guitars only come as a 6-string. Also, people ask why we don’t play baritone scale stuff and that is strictly because I think I look weird holding a baritone guitar. With a good setup and the right pickups, we still sound great and the 80 gauge really holds the tension well. I also just don’t need 8 strings. I have really small hands so I just can’t do an 8-string. I picked up one once and I just didn’t even know what to do with it other than play the top string.
D: That’s pretty fair, can’t really argue that.
C: Yeah, it’s just easier and there is very little learning curve. I would rather switch tunings on 6 strings and they have all these pitch dropping capabilities on Fenders now and stuff that you can keep the guitar in one tuning and switch it around a little bit,
D: What goes through your head when you are creating your guitar tones?
C: I used to be all about scooping out the mids because that was the metal thing to do, but I don’t do that anymore. A good bit of mid-range and just the right amount of drive and distortion. I don’t like over saturating guitar tones. Rather, I like to be clear with the low tuning that we are in. I’ve tried Mesa, Shaw, and Marshall, and for what we are doing right now we use the EVH 5150III 50-Watt. That whole league seems to be the best for what we do. If we are playing really heavy stuff, I put an overdrive pedal in front of it. If we are using a real amp, I’d say the Maxon OD808 is essential in front of it. I only run it at like 5 or 6 and then I pick really hard to compensate for that. I think you get a better tone if you pick harder and have less gain then if you pick lighter and have more gain. You just get more clarity out of it.
D: Since you also do clean vocals for the band, do you have a specific microphone and rig setup for that as well?
C: We actually just started working with Telefunken and I think the mic that I have is the wired version of the M80. We have been using Telefunken mics for a little bit. You’ve gotta love them; they are so clear they sound great in my in-ears and obviously you’ve got to trust the front of house guy to make it sound great through the PA. Telefunken is what we have been using.
D: Do you have a practice regimen for guitars and vocals?
C: No, I don’t practice at all actually which is probably not the best. Granted, I do vocal warm ups and warm downs before and after we play but touring and writing keeps me practiced up on those duties because I’m always playing guitar and singing. I haven’t put dedicated time into practicing guitar in a long time. I probably should though.
D: Do you have any stories, anecdotes or memories from shopping at Sam Ash Music?
C: Yeah! I bought a couple of guitars from Sam Ash. I definitely have a Fender Jazz Bass I bought from Sam Ash in Orlando, Florida. It’s a blue Mexican Fender Jazz which is still a bass that I use all the time. I bought and sold so many guitars that I don’t remember what I had. The Sam Ash where I live in Florida is about an hour away from my family’s home so my dad and I would make a day out of it and go hangout at Sam Ash and look at guitars. My dad and I are both music nerds.
D: Did your dad inspire you to play music?
C: Yeah! My dad was a bass player growing up and he used to tour as well so seeing my dad be a musician made me really want to do it. Then I started getting into bands and music and stuff and I was like I want to do this. I got my first guitar when I was 11 and I haven’t looked back since.
D: What can Wage War fans expect from you guys going forward after this album?
C: Hopefully a lot of touring, a lot of shows, and going to a lot of cities near you! We are going to push Pressure to its limits and we’re trying to playing in front of as many people as we can. We always keep writing, so hopefully we’ll release new material along the way and stick to what I think we do best and make riffs and play show!
Wage War’s latest album, “Pressure”, is out now! Stream the new album on Spotify and find them at them online at various links below: